Vital Vettel, the real McCoy and a gesture of death

OLD GILLER’S ALMANACK: The final straight. NORMAN GILLER concludes his review of the 2013 sporting year with the outstanding events of October to December


Tiger Woods, battling against a back problem, scores the decisive trophy-clinching point as the United States win a fifth straight Presidents Cup in Dublin, Ohio.

Unstoppable: Sebastian Vettel on his way to another F1 world title
Unstoppable: Sebastian Vettel on his way to another F1 world title

Wigan Warriors complete a league and cup double after coming back from 16-2 down to beat Warrington Wolves 30-16 in the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford.

Sebastian Vettel leads virtually from pole position to chequered flag to win the Korean Grand Prix and he now has a fourth straight F1 drivers’ championship clearly in his sights.

England beat Montenegro 4-1 in their World Cup Group H qualifier at Wembley to stay a point clear in top spot. Belgium, Germany and Switzerland secure their places at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

Sebastian Vettel wins the Japanese Grand Prix from Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, but Fernando Alonso’s fourth place denies him immediate World Championship celebrations.

England beat Poland 2-0 at Wembley through goals from Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals. Scotland and the Republic of Ireland finish their unsuccessful campaigns with wins over Croatia and Kazakhstan.

India complete the second-highest one-day international run chase when they hunt down Australia’s 359 for five in Jaipur with nine wickets, and 39 balls, to spare! Openers Rohit Sharma (141 not out) and Shikhar Dhawan (95) put India on their way before Virat Kohli hammers an unbeaten 100 off just 52 deliveries.

After taking an early 10-point lead, England suffer a 28-20 defeat by tournament favourites Australia in the opening match of the Rugby League World Cup in Cardiff.

Sebastian Vettel clinches his fourth consecutive world title with victory in the Indian Grand Prix. After controlling the race from start to finish at the Buddh International circuit for his 10th win of the season, Vettel becomes only the third driver ever to win four successive titles – following in the tyremarks of  legends Juan Manuel Fangio and his boyhood idol Michael Schumacher. It is a double celebration at Red Bull as the Milton Keynes outfit makes it a quartet of constructors’ championships.


Great Britain's women's pursuit team of Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell, Dani King and Elinor Barker on their way to a world record at Manchester in November 2013
Great Britain’s women’s pursuit team of Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell, Dani King and Elinor Barker on their way to a world record at Manchester in November 2013

British quartet Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell, Dani King and Elinor Barker beat the women’s team pursuit world record in 4min 19.604sec at the World Cup meeting in Manchester. Rowsell later wins the individual pursuit title, and double Olympic champion Trott takes the omnium.

England defeat Australia 20-13 in their opening autumn international at Twickenham, while in the Rugby League World Cup England hammer Ireland 42-0 at Huddersfield.

The unstoppable Sebastian Vettel claims his seventh consecutive victory with an easy win in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with his Red Bull team-mate. Mark Webber in second place.

4,000 and counting: Tony McCoy achieved a personal landmark
4,000 and counting: Tony McCoy achieved a personal landmark

Tony McCoy rides his 4,000th career winner aboard Mountain Tunes at Towcester.

England beat Argentina 31-12 at Twickenham, while Wales suffer a 24-15 defeat against South Africa at the Millennium Stadium.

Scotland qualify for the quarter-finals of the Rugby League World Cup after Italy are beaten 16-0 by Tonga.

Novak Djokovic masters Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-4 to win the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at London’s O2 Arena.

England’s footballers are made to look ordinary as Chile outclass Roy Hodgson’s team on their way to a 2-0 victory in a friendly at Wembley. Barcelona striker Alexis Sanchez scores both goals.

New Zealand end Scotland’s brave run in the Rugby League World Cup, reaching the semi-finals with a decisive 40-4 win at Headingley. England reach the semi-finals by beating France 34-6 at Wigan. Australia also progress with a 62-0 destruction of the United States.

In Rugby Union, the All Blacks hold out for a 30-22 victory over a spirited England team at Twickenham.

Sebastian Vettel becomes the first man to win eight successive races in a single season when he wins the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker heads the only goal as England are beaten 1-0 by Germany in a friendly at Wembley. Scotland beat Norway 1-0 in a friendly in Tromso, while the Republic of Ireland draw 0-0 with Poland in Poznan.

Stuart Broad takes five for 65 as England reduce Australia to 273 for eight on the first day of the first Ashes Test in Brisbane. Next day: England reduced to rubble by the pace of Mitchell Johnson. They lose six wickets for nine runs in a panic-propelled collapse at the Gabba. David Warner (124) and Michael Clarke (113) lay the foundations for Australia to set England a world-record target of 561. England fall 361 runs short on the way to a crushing, spirit-shattering defeat.

New Zealand conjure a last-minute try to beat England 20-18 in their Rugby League World Cup semi-final at Wembley, with Australia flattening Fiji 64-0 in the second semi-final.

Sebastian Vettel cruises to a record-equalling ninth successive Formula One race win with victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

New Zealand become the first Rugby Union side in the professional era to have a 100 per cent record in a calendar year after beating Ireland in a 24-22 thriller in Dublin.

Australia capture the Rugby League World Cup, beating New Zealand 34-2 at Old Trafford.

Wales lose 30-26 to Australia in a thrilling Rugby Union match at the Millennium Stadium, a ninth consecutive defeat by the Wallabies.


Greg Dyke, the FA chairman and the man that gave breakfast TV Roland Rat, resorts to sign language to show what he thinks of England's 2014 World Cup draw
Greg Dyke, the FA chairman and the man that gave breakfast TV Roland Rat, resorts to sign language to show what he thinks of England’s 2014 World Cup draw

England are placed in Group D alongside Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica in the draw for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil. Some consider it the Group of Death, possibly even FA chairman Greg Dyke who is caught on camera making a cut-throat gesture as England’s opponents become known.

Australia power to a 218-run victory in the second Test in Adelaide and a 2–0 series lead. Mitchell Johnson’s 7 for 40 wrecks England and he is once again named Man of the Match.

Manager André Villas-Boas is sacked by Tottenham Hotspur a day after Spurs lose 5-0 at home against Liverpool, a month following a six-goal tanking at Manchester City. Tim Sherwood, former Spurs midfielder and a member of the White Hart Lane backroom staff, is given an 18-month contract as his successor.

Andy Murray is voted SJA Sportsman of the Year, and also the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. Christine Ohuruogu is the SJA Sportswoman of the year.

England’s humiliated cricketers concede the Ashes in the third Test at Perth, where they go down to defeat by 150 runs. This gives Australia a 3–0 series lead, and their first Ashes series win since 2006-2007. Steve Smith is Man of the Match for his hundred in the first innings. It gets worse, with a collapse to an eight wicket defeat in the fourth Test in Melbourne when victory seemed in sight. Johnson’s eight-wicket haul brings him his third Man of the Match award of the series. The 91,092 spectators at the MCG who watch the first day’s play set a world record attendance for a Test match.

And so the sporting year of 2013 comes to a close, with the promise of even better action ahead in the football World Cup year of 2014.

As Andy Murray would say: “New balls please.”


Mon Mar 24: SJA British Sports Journalism Awards, Grand Connaught Rooms, London
Mon Apr 14: SJA Spring Golf Day: Croham Hurst GC, Surrey. Booking details to be announced